Rudloff: Continuing education without breaking the bank

Options Exist for Shop Owners Without Being Too Costly.

Question: I run a one-man shop in a very rural area. I was a good tech before becoming self-employed, but fear I’m losing the edge on new technical/service data. Do you have any suggestions for continuing education that I can do without breaking the bank?

Answer: Great question, one that is deeply personal for me. Like you, I was a tech before I opened my first shop, and I have always been more of a tech than a shop owner. Staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest technology is extra challenging for owners who are also the lead tech at their shop.  Because we all learn differently, there is no single best way to stay up-to-date, here’s a list of common options that get proven results. 

Periodicals like AutoInc., Motor Age and Auto Service Professional are often packed with good technical information. 

Online resources are worth investing in. The top two automotive forums that come to mind are iATN.net and diag.net, both are backed by some of the very best technicians the auto trade has to offer.  These are low-cost options that are good for someone who likes to read and isn’t afraid to ask questions. 

Training events and trade shows would be another great avenue for staying current on the latest trends in auto repair. At the national level, the VISION show is a big deal. In the East, ASA-PA’s Super Saturday and TST’s Big Event are the must-attend training events. Out West, you’ve got ASA Northwest’s ATE. All travel worthy events from anywhere in the country.

Talk to your parts suppliers. Companies like NAPA, Carquest, Federated and more offer training classes and training materials that are typically low cost or sometimes even free if your company buys enough from the parts house. Get on a mailing list for companies like Automotive Training Group (atgtraining.com) and find out when they will be in your area next. 

Train from the comfort of your home or office thanks to groups like Automotive Seminars (automotiveseminars.com), AVI (aviondemand.com) and Scanner Danner (scannerdanner.com) all offer technical videos for purchase. And don’t forget that ASA offers free, live webinar sessions each month (ASAshop.org/webinars).

Another low-cost way to train is to start a local tech club that pools resources among multiple shops and/or technicians. I did this back in 2009 when I created Delaware Training Group. Trained By Techs (trainedbytechs.com) is an up and coming resource based around tech club philosophy on the national scale. 

You need to keep up on more than just the nuts and bolts. Make sure you are advancing yourself as a shop owner, too.  Companies like AMi (amionline.org) are fantastic for online training and in class modules. Remarkable Results Radio is free and pure gold. Carm Capriotto, podcast host, is always covering current and pertinent topics with the industries best and brightest. 

Above all else, remember what National Drivability Instructor Jim Morton says in all of his training classes: “Training doesn’t cost, it pays.” Which means don’t be afraid to invest in yourself or your future. 

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